Edinburgh Council has revealed plans to install community-owned solar panels on buildings across the Scottish capital.
The Council will work in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative (ECSC) – supported by Energy4All – to deliver the initiative, which is believed to be the largest community-owned urban renewable energy project in the UK.
Public buildings such as schools, leisure and community centres will be chosen to host the solar technology, which project chiefs say will deliver significant environmental and social benefits.
The energy generated by the installations will help to make future cost savings while reducing the capital’s carbon emissions by an estimated 855 tonnes a year. Buildings that are chosen to participate will benefit from cheaper electricity from the solar panels, resulting in substantial savings.
Any surplus energy will be sold to the National Grid and profits made by the project will be reinvested locally through a newly-created Community Benefit Fund.
Vice Convener of Transport and Environment, Councillor Adam McVey, said:
“This is fantastic news for Edinburgh and will bring long term environmental, social and economic benefits.
“Community energy co-operatives allow local people to play a part in building a greener, more sustainable environment whilst raising awareness more generally about the importance of being energy efficient.
“We are aiming to meet our target of reducing Edinburgh’s carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and this project is an important step towards us achieving this.”
Shares will be offered to organisations or individuals who want to invest in the initiative, with priority allocation given to Edinburgh residents. Anyone interested in becoming members of the co-op can register their interest via the ECSC’s website.
Members of the co-op will receive annual interest on their investment (capped at 5% increasing with RPI), with any surplus profit invested in the Community Benefit fund.
The panels will also be a useful resource for educational projects to help engage pupils with environmental themes such as renewable energy. Each device will come with a real-time display of electricity generation which will be displayed on the buildings and accessible to pupils online.
Dr Richard Dixon, Chair of the ECSC, said:
“2015 is an important year for climate change, with the world’s nations supposed to agree new global targets in Paris at the end of the year. Around the world local people are creating their own solutions to climate change by investing in local renewable energy schemes.
“The Edinburgh scheme is a winner all round because it will reduce climate emissions and provide cheap energy for schools and other Council buildings. Local people will also get a decent return on any money they choose to invest.”
WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks welcomed the solar power initiative and said more property owners should follow the council’s example and make the switch to renewable energy.
“Using council property to install solar panels on is a smart move that over their lifetime will help the capital to avoid thousands of tonnes of climate change emissions. In addition to improving the energy efficiency of buildings, we’d very much encourage all local authorities to look into the possibility of using their land and buildings to generate clean energy.
“Solar power is growing in popularity in Scotland, especially in urban areas where alternatives such as wind turbines might not be possible. For the one thousand Edinburgh households that have already installed solar panels, during April there was enough sun to effectively meet all of their electricity or hot water needs, helping to reduce their reliance on polluting fossil fuels.
“With these sorts of figures, every home, business or council with a south-facing roof should seriously consider switching on to the full potential of solar power.”
In Scotland, over 35,000 homes and 600 business premises currently have solar PV arrays fitted. Just over one thousand of these properties are located in Edinburgh.
Analysis by WWF Scotland of solar data provided by WeatherEnergy found that during April 2015:
• For homes fitted with solar PV panels, there was enough sunshine to generate an estimated 113% of the electricity needs of an average home in Edinburgh.
• For those homes fitted with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine in Edinburgh to generate an estimated 100% of an average households hot water needs.
Work is currently underway to identify suitable sites for the solar panels and the chosen locations will be announced at a later date.
Photo Credit: Edinburgh, view from top of the hill with a view over the city by Moyan Brenn via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)